Thursday, November 29, 2007

"God breathed" in the light of Romans 13:1

Most of you know I do not believe in the so-called "Inerrancy" of Scripture. That said, I've had to wrestle with the argument, based on 2 Tim. 3:16, which says "all Scripture is God-breathed." That argument basically says, if God inspired Scripture, how could God have inspired any errors? Good argument; I'll grant that.

But I have, if not a perfect answer, a verse that helps me. Romans 13:1 says "there is no authority except that which is established by God." Yet, no one claims that all governments are "inerrant" just because they are established by God.

So how could God inspire Scripture that was not "inerrant"? I'm not sure, but perhaps it's in the same way that He could establish a government that was not inerrant.

Or, perhaps, to go further, the same way in which He could create a universe that was not perfect.

This isn't so much an answer to the question, but rather an attack on the logic of the question.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In praise of President Bush

President Bush has been exactly what Evangelicals voted for, particularly in 2000: a staunch pro-life President. One of the things he did early in his presidency was prevent scientific experimentation on human embryos.

Now, a remarkable scientific breakthrough has occurred, in which scientists have been able to create the equivalent of embryonic stem cells from not embryos, but skin. While this breakthrough is new, and the long-term benefits are uncertain, nevertheless it's being hailed as a major step toward being able to do stem cell research without the dubious ethical practice of using human embryos.

This breakthrough would have been much less likely to occur without President Bush's opposition to embryonic stem cell research--as it would have been unnecessary for scientists to seek alternate ways to conduct stem cell research. The breakthrough should be seen as a major victory for his presidency.

(which is not to say I'm not voting for Barack Obama next time around)

Monday, November 26, 2007

The problem with the “context” argument

One of the most popular methods for reinterpreting the plain meaning of a biblical text is to say “well, the context of that passage is different than our current context.” The way this argument is put usually goes like this: “we need to keep in mind that this was a letter Paul was writing to address a certain situation in a certain time in a certain place.” The argument then eventually says “now we’re in a different time and situation, so that text is not directly applicable.” (The teaching that is being reinterpreted is almost always one that offends contemporary politically correct views).

There’s plenty that can be said in favor of understanding the context of a biblical passage. But, I’d also like to point out a major weakness of this method: it can be used to undermine every aspect of Scripture. In law school this is what we called an argument that “proved too much.” What I mean is that, although it’s true that Paul’s writings on (women/sexuality/authority/you-name-it) were meant to address a particular situation, the same is true of all the writings of the Bible. So, to the extent this notion of “context” calls into question any given teaching (say, women’s roles in church), it equally calls into question any other teaching (say, salvation by grace through faith). This is not to suggest that we should question our central doctrines because of context, but rather it’s to suggest that the “context” method is often being used not in pursuit of truth but in the pushing of an agenda.

This isn’t to say that understanding context isn’t important. But it is to say that pointing out that a biblical epistle was addressed to a particular context is often simplistically misapplied by people desiring to justify a convenient re-interpretation of Scripture.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Emptiness, Ecstasy, Hope

In this life, my soul has never been completely satisfied. Often I feel empty inside. I’ve typically dealt with this in one of two ways: 1) distract myself with pleasure (license) or 2) try to discipline the unsatisfied desire to death (law).

Recently, however, I think God taught me something. The desire is real and legitimate. But it can’t be met by illegitimate means (worldly pleasure), yet it can’t be removed either (through discipline or asceticism or lobotomy). Instead, it’s to be directed heavenward. And God taught me a prayer to express this:

“My soul thirst for God, for the living God, when shall I go and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:2).

This has been helpful in two ways. Once, while I was feeling dissatisfied with life, I prayed this and was met with fairly strong internal joy. It’s my guess that was a small version of what some Christians have called “ecstatic experiences, visions or swoons.” This only happened the once, but I’ve only tried a few times. The other times, I prayed this only briefly and did not feel any ecstasy, but it was helpful nevertheless because it was comforting to be able to properly identify my experience. My heartfelt desires aren’t just my Mr. Jekyll trying to get out, but I also have a soul that thirsts for God, and on this side of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that desire will never be fully satisfied. But my faith tells me that there is a time when it will be, and properly understanding my unsatiated desire helps me direct my energy toward the trek toward Home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ... (1 John 3:1)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Clanging Gongs

I was thinking of starting a theological/philosophical club for Christians who know a lot but don't love a lot. (1 Cor. 13:1-2). I'd call it the 'Clanging Gongs.'

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

We love because he first loved us (John 4:19).

This verse is a good illustration of how Christianity works. The greatest commandment for the Christian is “to love” God and neighbor, but the Christian is not called upon to summon love from within himself. Instead, he is to be compelled by the love he first received from God.

Please post your thoughts on the ways in which God has loved us.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The free-for-all Bible study

I'm pretty frustrated with a certain form of Bible study or small group which I will designate the "free-for-all" Bible study (I've heard it less charitably referred to as the "share your ignorance" Bible study). And essentially the mode of this study is that a passage is selected and everyone shows up and says whatever they want about it. Most of what is said is a long way from good interpretation of Scripture, but the point is that it's very democratic--everyone gets their say.

I'm tired of this because I feel nobody gets anything from it except for the chance to voice their opinions and see if they can't make them sound biblical, but, since it's such a prevalent model, I thought I'd put it out there to see if other people can articulate the value of this kind of Bible study.

Friday, November 02, 2007

God answers prayer

Earlier this week my wife and I were entrenched in a disagreement, and it was not getting better; in fact, our efforts seemed to be making it worse. But then we prayed, a few others prayed for us, and amazingly, in the middle of a conversation, something changed and things got immediately better. It was weird, and I take it as an answer to prayer.

(Tangent: it just occurred to me that "luck" is a far more dubious concept than "prayer".)

Post your own answered prayers or prayer requests.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Late Night Agnostic (new version)

Are you awake,
aching to fill your heart
with the perfect tv show?

Are you so hungry
you eat all the cookies
to see if God is in the chocolate chips?

Do you pray
to the Internet,
each ‘click’ a little plea
for just a pittance of distraction?

Does your only relief
from the painful waiting
come when your vigil fails
and you fall asleep?